Copyright 2000 www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights
The White House Staff
The history book by Bradley H. Patterson jr. Get the book from Amazon.com
added on October 11, 2000
The The White House Staff is
a sequel to Patteron's 1988 book, Ring of Power. The author has
interviewed some 130 men and women over the course of three years. Patterson
himself has first hand knowledge about the subject since he has lived and worked
in Washington for fifty-five years, fourteen of them in the White House, where
he served on the staff of three presidents: Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford.
Patterson has also served as national president of the American Society of
Public Administration and is a senior fellow of the National Academy of Public
Administration. He is a graduate of the National War College and earned
bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Chicago.
The 125 offices of the contemporary
White House staff constitute the policy center of the executive branch of the American
government. But the Constitution includes not a word about them, and
they are barely mentioned in the statute. "Staff members have zero legal
authority in their own right, yet 100 percent of presidential authority
passes through their hands". Therefore, Patterson's book is not only useful, but a necessary tool for everybody who wants to understand how the White
House, with its nearly 5,900 employees and a budget of an estimated $730 million
Forty-six principal White House
offices are engaged in specialized services, aided by twenty-eight senior policy
support groups. Fifty-one additional offices contain the three quarters of the
staff who are nonpolitical professionals. In chapter one and two, Patterson
portrays each of the forty-six major policy offices. Among them are the National
Security Council with its nineteen subsections, Domestic and Economic Policy
Councils, Counsel to the President and the office of the Vice President's spouse. Chapter three
illuminates the fifty-one professional and support
offices of the White House. Patterson not only describes the functions of the
various offices and offers recent examples of their work but he also analyzes
the problems and issues that each policy unit needs to address in the long term.
He also addresses the controversial discussion about the large size of the White
House staff as well as the total White House budget.
"Part 4 looks ahead. President
Bush (1989-92), in managing national security affairs, and President Clinton,
more generally (particularly during his second term), seem to have succeeded in
dampening the old animosities between the cabinet and the White House staff.
Will the animosities resurface?" Patterson asks what governs the White
House staff's accountability, whether anonymity is still the universal
desideratum or what new physical facilities are on the drawing board for the
Although the author draws some
examples from presidents of the more distant past, he concentrates on the
changes during the Bush and Clinton administration. "The focus here is not
on the president but on the staff; the emphasis is not on what the presidents
did but on how the staff supported them. The objective here is not to judge the
wisdom or success of any president's policies ..." Of course, this book is
not an exhumation of the Lewinsky affair or other scandals, but Patterson gives
a series of (sometimes amusing) details about the White House. A book anyone
interested in American politics should read, not only because it is election
year, but also because policy development, coordination, articulation and even
sometimes implementation have been taken away from the cabinet departments and drawn into the White House
Bradley H. Patterson jr.: The White House Staff.
Brookings Institution Press, 2000, 491 p. Get it from Amazon.com.